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A bigger bang: for recent Independence Day celebrations, sponsoring organizations have been requiring pyrotechnics companies to carry higher limits of insurance coverage.

Fireworks on the Fourth of July are as American as apple pie, and each year a large number of communities across the United States celebrate the nation's independence with a big bang.

But amid the "oohs and aahs" elicited by the spectacular displays, potential danger lurks.

In 2004, emergency rooms around the United States treated about 9,600 fireworks-related injuries, an increase from 9,300 in 2003 .The majority of injuries resulted in burns, contusions and lacerations, and some even required finger or hand amputations. Fireworks also can be fatal. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that eight people were killed by fireworks accidents in 2004.

While most of those injuries were caused by consumer use of fireworks, there have been some incidents of injury or death to spectators and display operators caused by fireworks displays. In the early '90s, a Central Ohio man died after being hit by shrapnel as he watched an Independence Day display with his family in a community park. In 1997, two fireworks display technicians drowned after an explosion from a display they were triggering on a barge caused them to be thrown from the vessel.

Injuries aren't the only cause of alarm. In 2002, fires started by fireworks caused $26 million in direct property damage to structures, and fireworks-related fires have caused roughly $20 million in property loss to structures per year in inflation-adjusted dollars in the past decade, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Display companies and organizations are taking cover. "Generally they look for fireworks companies to carry display liability [insurance] to protect the audience from bodily injury or property damage," said Debbie Merlino, co-owner of Combined Specialties International, an insurance brokerage for the pyrotechnics industry. The company, an exclusive broker for Lloyd's of London, offers general liability and a property program for the industry, including coverage for special effects, aerial displays, consumers purchasing fireworks, and import and export, on a worldwide basis.

Policies typically protect spectators, while display operators generally am covered through workers' compensation policies, said Eric Treend, an independent agent with Cleveland-based Britton-Gallagher &Associates.

Cities and states have their own requirements about fireworks displays. "Normally they're looking for insurance limits of around $1 million in coverage, while some are looking for higher limits," said Treend. Several states, including Arizona, Delaware, Maine, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island, have banned the use of fireworks by consumers.

In 1995, Britton-Gallagher &Associates developed a program that includes coverage for displays, wholesalers, retailers, importers and manufacturers. The package addresses all lines of coverage including 1.4G (consumer fireworks) and 1.3G (display or exhibit fireworks) product liability, display liability, premises and stand liability and others, in addition to specially-written pyrotechnics endorsements.

Only a handful of carriers write pyrotechnics insurance in the United States, but the demand continues to grow. Merlino said Combined Specialties writes certificates of insurance during the Fourth of July holiday for between 5,000 and 6,000 displays across the United States each year.

The pyrotechnics industry is regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Companies am required to follow the National Fire Protection Agency guidelines for transportation, sale and display of 1.3G fireworks, said Merlino.
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Title Annotation:The Last Word
Comment:A bigger bang: for recent Independence Day celebrations, sponsoring organizations have been requiring pyrotechnics companies to carry higher limits of insurance coverage.(The Last Word)
Author:Chordas, Lori
Publication:Best's Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2006
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